Friday, December 28, 2007


All long time Slackware users know its package management tools do not calculate dependencies. It never has and possibly never will. At least not officially.

The author of Slackware, a certain Mr Volkerding, is on record as saying Slackware will never do dependacy checking due to the inherent risks of doing such. Now, it is perfectly feasible that as he gets older and married life takes a hold and the probability of children being added to the fold, that he may change his mind. However, at this time in Slackware's development cycle, it is at version 12 with -current (the play area that will become the next Slackware version when the author deems it fit to be so) in full swing, Slackware's package tools do not support dependancy checking.

There are a couple of packages in /extra that do do dependency checking but as is witnessed all over the Internet these programs sometimes wreak havok on users systems. It is not for me to say whether these issues are caused by user or program errors but having played with these programs on my test desktop machine I can only state what happened to me. I am by no means a novice Slackware, let alone Linux, user but both Slaptget and Slacktrack (the programs deemed worthy of a place in /extra) both bit me and totally hosed my test desktop machine. Luckily, having used Slackware since forever I recovered that desktop but as sure as night follows day there are many poor tortured souls out there that do not have me experience who would be left with but one option and that is to reinstall. I would hazard a guess that Mr Volkerding knows about these oopsies that occasionally happen and until such a time as these reports and complaints stop he will never incorporate such programs into Slackware proper.

And so it should forever be so.

So, why then do various third party outfits add in extra tags to their package sets that are for dependency checking? These outfits add slack-required files into their packages which are then used by Slaptget. started this rot and others such as and are doing it too. It is wrong and flies in the face of what Mr Volkerding himself has stated.

I ask these package repository owners to clean up their act and remove these slack-required files from their packages.

A while ago I joined a party whose aim was to properly explain how Slackware's package tools worked. The grand plan was to document every aspect of those tools. A noble aim I am sure you will agree. However, it soon became apparent that what they wanted to do was expand on what Slackware's package management tools already did by adding in various extra bits. As soon as this became apparent I and my partner in crime for this very blog, left.

Slackware is lean and clean. Long may it remain so.

Monday, December 10, 2007


That is the only word I can think of that hits home how I feel about this particular thing.

In the latest slackware-current changelog there is a reference to someone who is not averse to stealing scripts by other people and calling them his own. In this particular case it is the build script for XFCE4.

I put up my own build script for XFCE4 when XFCE went from the older XFCE to the newer XFCE and labled it XFCE4. In fact, I was building every new XFCE4 as and when they came out upstream. I would build it, put up the package, build script and slack-desc. For one or two releases I was prompted by users as I was slow in catching the upstream release. However, as soon as I was notified I went and downloaded it, built it etc etc.

The similarities between my own script and the script in slackware-current attributed to a particular person who has been noticed by others for stealing other peoples scripts is disappointing at worst and downright annoying at best.

Friday, December 7, 2007


For only the second time in some 12 years I am considering changing distributions. Over those 12 or so years I have enjoyed using first Slackware, then Slamd64 and latterly Bluewhite64. Those latter two are 64 bit ports of Slackware. Bluewhite64 is the more vanilla port as slamd64 has some additiions not found in Slackware itself.

In all that time my allegence has been with Slackware, or a port thereof and distributions have come and gone and some have been around forever but none have strung my head hard enough to make me change for more than a week.

The last time I considered changing distributions was about 6 years ago. I joined Arch Linux and did some 300+ packages for them but the administration team went off the rails around version 0.3. I argued with them. Left then rejoined only to leave again. That distribution is still going and my heart says give it another go but my head always brings back the thoughts of those arguments. The crux of those arguments concerned direction and if I am honest with myself I would end up back arguing again. To show how the current administrators act consider the fact I did over 340 packages for Arch Linux but you would not know it as my attributions have been removed from most of the PKGBUILD scripts and my name nor nick is mentioned anywhere on their web site. You would think with such a large contribution at a time when Arch was growing, and I believe I helped it grow with my huge contribution, would at least have got my name or nick mentioned somewhere but, and I strongly believe it is because of the current administration, I get no such mention.

Anyway, that gripe off my chest I looked around at the current state of the Linux distribution market both big players and little players. None took my attention. Not one. Well, that is not completely true. ROCK got my attention as did one of its spin offs but something stopped me from trying them. Was it my previous go, though I cannot remember trying them. Whatever it was it was something. The Ubuntu family simply turn me off so much I find them abhorant. My wife uses Ubuntu and administrating it for her, both hands on and remotely is a breeze but it is exactly that ease, and their overreliance on the sudo command, that turns me off.

Some of the middle field players i dug into insomuch as I viewed their web sites but there was always something that held me back from actually using them as my main stay everyday distribution choice.

So, for me at least, the newer Bluewhite64 which is based on the venerable Slackware will for the forseeable future remain as the distribution of choice on my desk top rig.

Now, if I had to change which one of the 300+ disributions would I choose? If I had bags of time to install it then ROCK or EDS would be my choice. If I did not have bags of time then it would be Arch or Crux Linux. Hmm, Crux I tried before and really liked what I saw but at the time I tried it its application database(s) where very small if they existed at that time at all. These days however, Crux has come along way and now has many databases spread around the Internet some of which have lots of content.

Anyway, after a 4 weeks search and read exercise I still cannot find anything to replace my Slackware based Bluewhite64 Operating System with.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Time rolls on.

Indeed it does. Time rolls on and the dinosaur's disappeared. And so it is. With the above line stated I think some explanation is required, especially its deeper meaning as well as to what it is I refer to in the present tense. Many years ago some Slackware users placed many nuggets of information relating mainly to that Operating System but sometimes to every GUN Linux based Operating System. They put on to web sites information such as how to 'properly' build Slackware packages. How to get around some of the quarks that distribution had. How to change the start up scripts to make them faster at boot time. Etc, etc, etc. All this and more was put out there for public consumption and people used that information. Then other Slackware users came to be and they too put such information into the public domain. These users collected the information scattered on many web sites put there by the previous generation, updated to fit new releases and then put it all together in one place for other people to view and use. Fast forward to today and yet again a newer set of users came to be who collated information out there on the Internet, gave it a new twist, called it their own and placed the result on the Internet. The different between the three generations of Slackware users, while all had or have good intentions, follows the same path and attitudes each generations general public had or had. Lets call the generations Gen-1, Gen-2 and Gen-3. Gen-1 built the foundations the Gen-2 built on top of. Gen-2 attributed Gen-1 for the work Gen-2 created off the back of what Gen-1 created. In otherwords Gen-2 acknowledged Gen-1. Gen-3 however is a different beast all together. They took the work done by Gen-2 and called it their own. They changed the smallest bits. They give no attribution at all to Gen-1 and Gen-2. They created web sites in a mirror image of web sites created by Gen-2 and then added or edited scripts then gave no attribution to Gen-2. So, today we have a situation where Gen-3 users are coming across, and they do everything possible to put that in the minds of other people, as being the first and only generation of Slackware users that have put information and slackware build scripts on the Internet. They give not the slightest nod to all those who have gone before them doing what Gen-3 users are doing right now. I reckon there are one or two reasons for Gen-3's attitude. Reason 1 is mirrored in how todays society at large acts. Reason 2 is that most of the Gen-3 web masters are American and we all know they think they rock andthe rest of the world does not exist in their minds and that they are hellbent on ruling the world. That is my take on the current generation of Slackware users. It is bad enough to make me want to change distributions for the first time in 12 years or so. Attributes people. Attributes. Deep deep down you know I am right.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gnome2 >2.20.0

I am unsure when Gnome2 started using PolicyKit which itself relies on SELinux and/or PAM but in my honest opinion this is a bad bad move.

I don't know how people who are building third party Gnome2 packages for Slackware are going to build it without PolicyKit. Every man and his dog knows that Slackware's author, Mr Volkerding, regards PAM as a huge security hole so does not and has said he will not include PAM in his distribution.

I have liked Gnome since its first incarnation many years ago. While I currently use the always improving without adding bloat Xfce4 I often revisit Gnome2 to see what is going on there. KDE simply does not get a look in because I have never liked QT.

But, this new reliance on PolicyKit which in turn relies on PAM and/or SELinux to be able to do its work is going to prove to be a massive turn off for me and no doubt a lot of Slackware users and for that reason alone unless I, and others, can find a way to build the latest version of Gnome2 without PolicyKit then Gnome2 will simply fall by the wayside as so many other DTE's and WM's have done over the years. Xfce4 will be the only DTE (DeskTop Environment) left on my system for those times I load up X.

Time and time again I have dabbled with PAM. Built it, installed it, configured it for my needs but always I have felt that PAM is simply a security bolt on that is not needed on a properly configured system. Because it is a bolt on this alone makes it a security hole. Look at PAM's record on vulnerabilities and you will see just how poor a record PAM has in this area. After a week or two usage with PAM running on my systems and adding a patch or 3 to cover some hole within it or updating it yet again because of a vulnerability I get fed up with it and remove it. Look around the Internet and you will see problem after problem regarding PAM and now we have parts of Gnome2 relying on it. If I feel this way how many others out there feel the same?

I downloaded the latest, at time of writing 2.21.2, Garnome (that is how I have tested various versions of Gnome2 for quite some time. Garnome itself is a wonderful tool as it allows you to test Gnome2 without actually installing it system wide) and because I have no PAM or SELinux installed it will not build. I have edited various files within the Garnome environment to try and eliminate the need for PolicyKit, PAM and SELinux but every effort resulted the same. It simply will not build.

This reliance on PolicyKit, PAM and SELinux is a shame as I said earlier on, Gnome2 has been one of my favourite DTE's and because of these reliances I will soon be consigning it to the bin.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Creative XFI Fata1ity.

Is this card a dead duck under a Linux Operating System? As of this time I have to say a resounding yes. However, read on. You may be surprised.

I will hold my hand up and say up front I am no audiophile. My partner in crime on this blog seVen however is. He has often winced at sounds I have found reasonable to my ears. Anyway, what is said here in this blog post is not about sound itself but about the state of Creative's drivers for the Linux Operating System.

The last time I had a Creative sound card in my main system they had just released what turned out to be probably one of their longest life card range. The Sound Blaster Live! I had two variants of these excellent cards within a 6 month time frame. My first one was a 4.1 one. My second one about 6 months later was a SB Platinum which of course was a 5.1 card.

So called on-board audio is audio that sits on your motherboard rather than being an external PCI/ISA/PCIe etc card. Not all motherboards have on-board sound but more and more do these days and the quality, for a desktop system with an OpSys that has everyday ears for sound receptacle's, the sound is really rather good. Of course there are some on-board audio chips that suck more than a suckything at a suck fest but by and large on-board audio has come on leaps and bounds in the desktop space.

As on-board audio became more ubiquitous and became better and better with 5.1 and 7.1 being the norm the good old SB Live! was consigned to the desk drawer where all good cards go and which I call my "Use again Someday" drawer and while the sound emanating through my 5.1 speakers via the SB Live! Platinum still punched out some excellent bass from the sub woofer I had no choice but to free up a PCI slot and reluctantly move to onboard audio.

My first on-board experience came via a VIA AC`97 chip which frankly was utter rubbish. I went through motherboard after motherboard all of which had some form of on-board audio chip. I will say that the best of these is probably my current one which is a VIA High Definition Audio used via the intel driver under Linux.

This brings me to something else. Driver support. It is a rare sound chip that has no support at all, though there are some. Under a Linux Operating System many chipsets are collected into one driver. So, if you check your kernel sources you may not see your audio chip, on-board or not but via the ALSA sound sub system more often than not there is support for most sound chips. In some cases you may need third party drivers. Nvidia's nForce series is one such example as is Creative's latest and greatest the XFI range.

Not being totally enamored with my current on-board audio I decided to purchase a PCI external sound card. Plenty of choices out there but I wanted something good. My attention immediately switched to Creative's range. In particular the XFI range. I settled in the end for a Creative XFI Fata1ity. Now, usually I check Linux compatibility before purchasing any hardware but this time around I simply bought the card and thought I'll worry about support later.

Oh dear. What a mistake that was! First time in years I have not checked compatibility first and sure enough that decision came back to bite me in the arse. There was no support for the Creative XFI range whatsoever when I bought it. None. I had a card sat in my machine that registered itself but the kernel said "Unknown device". For approximately 6 months this card was useless under a Linux Operating System. I was absolutely gutted.

Then just last September Creative released some closed source driver for the XFI range. And they released it for 64bit Operating Systems only. The rights and wrongs of that decision will play out in time but for what it is worth I think it was the wrong decision. There are plenty of x86_64 or AMD64/EMT64 systems out there but by and large the majority are x86 or 32bit. I will not get into the closed versus open source argument as honestly I couldn't care less either way. As long as the driver gets my hardware working then the fact the driver is open or closed makes no odds to me at all.

Having downloaded the driver I proceeded to use their 'installer' script. This failed miserably. After some editing of the 'installer' script to fix obvious mistakes I tried again. This time it failed on some kernel header file. By now I was slightly pissed off but decided my best course of action would be to Google it. I did exactly that and found many other people around the globe had hit the same issues as I had hit. As is usual for closed source drivers, Linux users set about fixing all the issues. Notably, Gentoo users fixed the issues. Some Gentoo users are a world apart from other Gentoo and other Distribution users. I tip my hat to these people. This web site documents everything so I won't go through it here. If you have a Creative XFI range audio card then go take a look. It will save you some hair loss.

So, finally, what is the actual sound like? Hmm, it is listenable but certainly no great shakes. There are serious issues with this driver like 'scratching' as the file or video plays, the driver sometimes locking up the system on boot etc etc. I am sure that given time Creative will sort all these issues. Let us be fair here this Creative released closed source driver is ALPHA status so given that status there is plenty of room for improvement. I think Creative's best bet would be to release the driver as true Open Source with a relevant, possibly restrictive, license. By doing this they are guaranteed to have hundreds, possibly thousands, of eyes on the code which with Creative's help with 'hidden' details should yield a driver that matches or possibly beats its MS Windows driver.

As of the time of writing I am not overly happy with this card. I will sit quietly, patiently and wait for the next few releases of the driver which should see both stability and usability improve. I hope so. The card itself can and does produce excellent sound under MS Windows and apart from Creative blocking coders by withholding vital information regarding this card there is no reason why this Linux based driver cannot improve.

If you, the reader, are a Bluewhite64 or Slamd64 or any other copycat 64bit Slackware based Operating system would like a fully patched Slackpak of the Creative XFI driver then tell me and I will see what I can do about creating one for you. Do not ask me for a 32bit Slackpak of this driver as as of the time of writing the closed source portion of this driver has no 32bit support.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Slackware package build scripts

Long time Slackware users have since the beginning created their own Slackware build scripts that created Slackware compatible packages. These packages made for easy installation as well as removal. They also eased the pain for administrators with multiple machines.

Over time these long time Slackware users built up a huge collection of build scripts. Most, like myself, have kept these build scripts to themselves. Only releasing the odd one or two to friends and colleagues or if some package that came with Slackware itself could be built in an alternative way. Gaim, now called Pidgin, comes to mind here as it can be built against mozilla's NSS or against GnuTLS. Slackwares own is built again Mozilla's NSS but many users don't install Mozilla so the alternative build against GnuTLS that I created a long time ago was born. That build script was downloaded over 2 million times. The packages were downloaded over 1.2 million times. These numbers vindicated my releasing the build scripts and packages.

Many friends and colleagues urged me to release more of my own build scripts and packages but I did not. One, probably the major reason why I did not, because I considered Slackware users would rather create their own.

Latterly, lots of web sites dedicated to Slackware build scripts have popped up. Some borrowed my Gaim/Pidgin build scripts and called them their own. Others simply copied them, changed a few bits here and there within the build scripts then called them their own.

But the point of this post is not to complain about that but to ask the various administrators of those Slackware build script sites to add support to all their scripts for the x86_64 architecture.

I have no idea which of the two main x86_64 distributions, Bluewhite64 or Slamd64, is the most popular. Nor do I care. I use Bluewhite64 myself purely because the packages are one for one with Slackware itself whereas Slamd64 has some changes.

I don't care if these newer sites have stolen or reworked Slackware build scripts from other places on the Internet. Simply put these collections offer a great service to Slackware users by having lots of build scripts in one place. However, by leaving out x86_64 support in their build script repository's they are leaving out a large, and growing by the day, proportion of Bluewhite64/Slamd64 users.

Friday, November 23, 2007

P2P to throttle or not.

P2P to throttle or not. That my dear friends is the question facing ISP's the world over (apologies for the bastardised quote).

With P2P traffic gobbling up bandwidth, bandwidth owned by the ISP, well even they purchase it but for this blog post we'll put up with the consideration that they own their part of it, and purchased legally by you the customer, there are those who are seeking to kill off all P2P traffic. For that there is no justification whatsoever.

ISP's, mostly, are throttling P2P traffic. Some more than others but throttling it nonetheless.

Those that seek to kill or throttle P2P traffic seem to miss one simple point in all this and that is that the customer pays for their connection and therefore have a legal right, within the ISP's T&C's and/or FUP, to use that connection as they see fit.

Sure, there are those that use P2P to download illegal content and they should be targeted in an effort to stop them, but for the rest of us downloading free content like Linux ISO's, free applications, free video content etc etc why should we suffer these restrictions?

A lot of ISP's use self learning throttling applications that seek to level out customer usage by looking at signatures which give the application some idea what the user is actively doing. ISP's and the creators of this application claim that the self learning nature of this software allows it to differentiate between legal and none legal traffic so why can they not distinguish between those customers that download illegal stuff from those of us who want to download, via P2P, legal content?

I will tell you why. It does not matter to them if you are downloading legal content or not. They do not like the fact that P2P uses a distributed model for downloading, and uploading, which means that the bandwidth you legally purchased from your ISP is used. There can be hundreds if not thousands of distributed bits of a file or video dotted all over the world taking up bandwidth legally purchased.

There are many legitimate uses for P2P, like Linux ISO's. The idea that the only people to benefit from P2P are those who distribute ilegal content is quite simply wrong. Further, if I have the option of downloading from a distant server or from a torrent with hundreds or thousands of users, I will go for the torrent everytime quite simply because usually the torrent download will be faster even with misconfigured ISP throttling in place. Added to this is the fact that BitTorrent software is quite adept at managing large downloads. There are times I may want to throttle my torrent download because I am playing a game.

I have yet to have it explained to me why downloading via P2P is any worse bandwidth wise than downloading via a single host. I fail to see how this differs in bandwidth used. Unless of course it is easier for ISP's to throttle single downloads.

Throttling or killing of P2P is wrong. For many reasons.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Apples Leopard OS.

With all the fuss surrounding Apples release of their latest OS offering called Leopard it will come as no surprise when the users of it are disillusioned. That is assuming they dare become disillusioned.

Thing is Apple never truly innovates. They copy whatever other OSes have done and in some cases have done for years but to Apple fanboys who believe every word Mr Jobs say these "innovations" are new and truly innovative. Silly people.

Since Apples move to a Unix underbelly they have become mainstream again. Why? I have no idea. Apples OSes have turned me off for years. I honestly cannot understand how they have become what they have become.

Apples Leopard. Nothing new here. Move on.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Or put in pure Linux/Unix terms: X != KDE. Or Gnome, XFce4, Fluxbox etc etc.

As Linux (Linux defined here constitutes an entire distribution. In real terms, linux of course is the kernel only and a distribution, like Slackware, RedHat, Ubuntu etc are collections of programs which include the kernel.) grows exponentially in popularity there are many misnomers cropping up regarding what is what. While these misnomers are mostly harmless they do make diagnosing problems that may crop up harder for us more knowledgeable long time users.

For example. I saw a discussion recently on a forum where the user with a screen blanking problem kept referring to "The screen blanker in KDE." After much discussion going back and forth it eventually transpired that he/she was using Ubuntu. Ubuntu hides the underlaying console that all distributions have and boots straight into Gnome, by default, or KDE. This user had changed the default so instead of logging directly into GDM (the gnome login manger) from where he/she could log into Gnome or KDE he/she automatically booted directly into KDE.

Nothing wrong with this method and can in fact save a little bit of time logging in. This method also facilitates booting ones machine then walking away to do something else. On return the machine will be sat on the Gnome, KDE etc desktop so one can start work immediately upon returning to the station.

Where this sort of auto login does become an issue is when, for whatever reason, ones X or Gnome/KDE has been irreparably broken so that instead of being sat on the desktop one is sat at a scary black screen with nothing more than a bit of text at the bottom.

And so this discussion went. He/she was not having a problem with KDE but did have a problem with X blanking the screen. however, his/her constant use of "The screen blanker in KDE" kept throwing us old timers off the scent of where the problem really laid.

In very simple terms the boot process boots in 3 separate stages. First, the console, second, X and third ones chosen GUI which can be any one of many but most new users tend to use Gnome, KDE or XFce4. To blank or stop blanking the monitor each one of these stages should be addressed separately. Of course if one never uses the console directly that stage can be missed out. None of the GUI's have screen blanking themselves. Instead they offer, via their setup or configuration applets, options to setup the default GUI screen blanker which is a program called xscreensaver.

So, for console blanking we use 'setterm -blank <time in seconds>. If the value of (time in seconds> is set to 0 then blanking is disabled. Any other none negative value will blank the console after those minutes of inactivity.

For X this is a little more tricky insofar as how one goes about setting this up, but works fine once set up. If one does not add these options to /etc/X11/xorg.conf the default options, which are for X to blank the screen after 5 or so minutes of inactivity, kick in. To set X to blank the screen after so many minutes of inactivity, open /etc/X11/xorg.conf in your editor of choice. We need root access for this so use 'su' to gain root privilidges or 'sudo'. Add the following lines to 'Section "ServerLayout"' in /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

Option "BlankTime" "0"
Option "standby time" "0"
Option "suspend time" "0"
Option "off time" "0"

These options totally stop X from blanking the screen.

The third part is simple and for a new user probably the easiest way to blank or stop blanking the screen. Gnome, KDE, XFce4 or any desktop environment or any window manger for that matter do not contain any screen blanking code beyond offering configuration options for the xscreensaver program. By setting these options up one can disable screen blanking in your chosen GUI environment.

I hope you found the information given here useful and please, new users to Linux, try not mixing up the various parts that make the whole and we old timers will be better able to help you with whatever problems you may be experiencing.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Having used SLS (Soft Landing Systems an ancient now defunked distribution. IIRC SLS was the first 'packaged' distribution), Slackware then when moved to an x86_64 system, Slamd64 before finally settling on Bluewhite64. I currently have over 500 packages of my own creation. That is, I download the sources and configure, compile and install a lot of stuff myself, usually with a Bluewhite64 package of the result. It never ceases to amaze me how people claim optimisations over and above the stock -march=i486 -mcpu=i686, or in some cases -march=i386, Slackware uses or the stock i386 debian is built with, results in faster load and execution times.

Gentoo users are the biggest culprits for doing this. They claim, and worse some even think and believe, that because their systems are built from the ground up (this is no longer completely true as even stage1 comes with a pre-built base install last time I checked) with some semi insane GCC settings that their OS somehow, magically, is faster than all the other Linux distributions that come pre built via packages.

As an aside, the myth that says Gentoo gives you more knowledge than other distribution is just that. A myth. Portage does all work with the user giving some, often ignored, flags to it. Portage then goes and downloads the sources, builds then installs it. No black magic there at all.

Gentoo users through this mistaken belief can be seen on various mailing lists, web forums, blogs and Usenet arguing over little known, little useful, hidden GCC flags again in the mistaken belief that these flags offer them optimisations over and above what every other OS uses.

Gentoo users are not alone in this belief but their userbase is way over and above the most vocal about it. There are other distributions that make the same claims. Sourcemage, Rock Linux are two others that come immediately to mind at the time of writing.

I cannot find the link now but a while ago there was a binary speed comparison of Gentoo, Mandrake (now Mandriva) and Debian. Debian was compiled for i386, mandrake for i586 and Gentoo for i686. I don't recall what GCC flags where used but I do seem to recall that the flags used where pretty ordinary. It turned out that Debian's i386 compiled binaries were faster in every way. The report was vilified by Gentoo fanboys at the time but what the report did show was that setting insane GCC flags does not always mean one will get a faster system load time and execution time.

The truth is that most optimisations for GCC have nothing whatsoever to do with speed but do have something to do with the resultant binary size(s). This binary size can and does give the illusion that the binary can and does load and run faster.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where has he gone?

This blog was created not be me, Jeepster, but by a very good friend of mine called

Ho hum....

I hate misinformation with a passion and beleive me there is a lot of misinformation about a GNU/Linux on the Internet. I was browsing around the Internet looking for nothing in particular when I happened upon the following link: Now, having been a Linux user since around the very early 1990's I take issue with some of the bogus things mentioned in the above article. Let us look at this persons "Requirements" one by one. Here is his list of "Requirements": 1. It must have a GUI interface for installing and configuring the system. 2. Existing hardware must remain usable and the new operating system must make it "just work" without my having to edit text-based configuration files. 3. Existing software must remain usable unless the new operating system has equivalent features to the ones I use, and I can switch without losing data or doing much work. 4. Because I need to use software that has no Linux substitute, the Linux distribution must make it easy to create a dual-boot system. It has to recognize and preserve the existing operating system and its data during installation, and give me access to the data on the Windows drives after installation. Further this person says his "Requirements" are "non-negotiable". Obviously a very arrogant person who writes fluff at best and utter junk, like the article above, at worse. Option 1 in this persons list of "non-negotiable requirements" is the funniest of all of them. The question is, what constitutes a GUI? Most people consider a GUI to mean real drivers for the graphics card and real and proper windows, buttons, icons etc. The MS Window installer does not use a GUI, it uses bit mapped graphics which imitates what we all know as being a GUI. On Linux this is called the framebuffer or sometimes the VESA buffer is used. Given that this person claims to know his stuff does not bode well for whatever else he waffles on about. Throughout the article there are errors and misleading information that is so blatant is stops being funny after page 1. Anyway. Item 2 on his "non-negotiable requirements" list is almost as funny of item 1. The vast majority of hardware under MS Windows immediately after the installation phase is used in the most basic of basic states until one installs the proper driver. Under Linux the vast majority of hardware is in the most usable state from the minute the kernel loads the driver during the install phase. There is a huge difference between these two methods and those differences are at best glossed over in this article and at worst totally disregarded. Further in this persons Item 2 it is stated that the hardware must just work without the need to edit text based files. Now, given that MS Windows has all manner of "Wizards", some of which just work whilst others simply do not and almost every change requires a reboot, I think editing the odd text based file is a much prefer method as they are almost always guaranteed to "just work". Redhat, Mandriva and SuSe to name but a few all have similar wizards. Still, it has to be said that the vast majority of hardware "just works" under Linux and of those obscure bits that rely on deeply embedded MS Windows files often installed by MS Windows only drivers are not worth bothering with anyway, because those types of hardware use way too much CPU time to do their thing. Item 3 in this persons "non-negotiable requirements" list is an obscure one. The person states that "Existing software must remain usable". I do not fully understand the meaning here as it should be obvious that MS Windows software will not work on a Linux distribution as the under laying file system formats are not compatible, unless one uses cedega or qemu both of which run MS Windows within Linux. Some software packages, like the Picasso one this person mentioned run under a Linux OS but is wrapped up in Wine, another MS Windows emulator. If however, this person meant that under Linux his DATA files should be usable from the MS Windows world then that is a different thing altogether. Apart from some deeply proprietary formats the vast majority are usable under a Linux distribution. OpenOffice, which can be directly compared to MS Office, can open, edit and save in all manner of formats, some MS, some Linux but the majority of major MS formats can be opened, edited and saved back to the MS format. The programs under a Linux based OS may not be the same (how could they be when the program creators do not produce a Linux version?) but the fact is that the vast majority of file formats, be they text based ones, movie and sound based ones or even the ubiquitous MS Office formats are usable under a Linux OS but using a different program. OpenOffice in place of MS Office or Mplayer plus codecs in place of MS Media Player plus codecs etc etc. Finally, this persons Item 4. This person states that he uses some applications that have no Linux equivalents. While I agree that this situation does happen, the situation is getting less and less but there are still some areas Linux has not gone to that the MS world has. The person also mentions a dual boot situation. Now, given that both Lilo or grub (two boot loaders under a Linux OS) have been able to do this since, well, since they more or less first came onto the market and if given the choice between a Linux based boot loader and an MS boot loader I personally would go with the Linux based one every time. Why? Well, the MS operating System does not like sharing with anything and is often times the culprit when in a dual boot situation the Linux OS side suddenly either stops working or simply gets deleted. Also, when you install MS Windows it will automatically over write whatever is in the MBR irregardless of whether you wanted it to. The Linux based counterparts however will allow not only a dual boot situation but a triple or quad etc boot option. And just so this person knows it is not a Linux OS that stuffs up the MBR (Master Boot record which holds all the partitions and OS information) but the MS Windows one. The MS boot loader, or rather the MS installer does no sniffing of the MBR at all, while its Linux based counterparts do, and simply overwrites whatever was in the MBR. So, there we have it. Someone who has not the first clue about Operating Systems writing blatant rubbish about operating Systems. If these people are to gain any credibility whatsoever they should at least learn that about which they speak. Installing a Linux based OS nowadays is easier than installing its MS Windows counterpart. It will not over write whatever is in the MBR. It will open, edit and save almost all formats be they text based one, XML based ones, film based ones and music based ones. Apart from games, and even that area is getting less and less, there is very little MS Windows can do that a Linux OS cannot. This person used Ubuntu as his marker for his or her "non-negotiable requirements" which is a good choice as Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu or any other flavour of Ubuntu does all the things one would expect from a Linux OS trying to immitate MS Windows in every area. There are other Linux Distributions out there that operate in a similar fashion but there is only one MS Windows (Windows95, Windows98, WindowsXP, and MS Windows Vista are not differing OS's in the same way that the many and varied Linux distributions are). For anyone thinking of installing a Linux OS either as the only OS on the hard drive or as a dual boot you would do well to ignore this blatantly bias rubbish as portrayed in the article above and go and find someone, somewhere that knows what they are talking about. This person in the above mentioned article clearly and unequivocally does not.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My foray into the murky world of Operating Systems.

Or, A potted history of my computer usage.

This blog post can also be found elsewhere. They where both written by myself.

While this blog host is worldwide the stuff at the end is for local to me people and companies. That said, if you are located somewhere far away from my locality, which is Hull, UK, then we can still talk via email, ICQ and even MSN and who knows, perhaps I can offer you or your company some remote services, which are incidentally something I excel at. Read on then decide for yourself which way you want to go.

I have used the Linux kernel and the same GNU based distribution since 1991. Yes, I was one of the masochists back in those days who saw Linus Torvalds work and the associated GNU tools as something radically different from what was quickly emerging as the default operating system ("OS").

I had previously used the Amiga OS, which was so far ahead in what it offered that even in todays OS world it would not be out of place. I started by foray into the murky waters of computers with a Commodore-PET, carried on through the C64/128 phase then the Plus4. Then along came the Amiga 1000. I immediately saw this machine for what it was and jumped on it. Over the following few years I went through the entire Amiga range ending up with what was their finest hour, the Amiga 3000 Tower.

By now it was 1991 at which time it had become painfully obvious the Amiga was going nowhere fast. Over the next few years I started looking at what else was available. IBM, and compatibles, where everywhere but lacked something I had grown used to having with the Amiga. Apple had machines out but they too lacked that something. Eventually, around 1996 and knowing nothing about them at that time, I bought my first and only pre-build IBM compatible machine which came with the awful MS Windows OS of that time. The OS itself stayed on that machine just long enough to download a Linux distribution, Slackware as it turned out, and install it. I have never used another OS on my main workstation since that time.

I had used NetBSD on my Amiga 3000 Tower setup since around 1990. Running it alongside the Amiga OS. It wasn't until around 1996 that I sold all my Amiga equipment and went full time into the Linux world which I have remained with ever since.

And that is my potted history of computer OS's I have used over the years.

I have said I started using Linux around 1991 and that is correct. Someone had given me an IBM clone on which had, if I remember correctly, MS Windows 1.0 or maybe 2.0, I forget. I ran this box alongside my Amigas for about 5 years, never upgrading it, save for an extra floppy drive and generally not doing much at all with it as it paled in comparison to my Amiga. Anyway, that OS, on the IBM clone. was quickly replaced with what was at that time the all new Linux kernel add in some GNU tools and a new OS was born.

What did the GNU/Linux combination have that the Amiga had that MS Windows, then and now, had that made me decide to use it? Freedom. Freedom to tinker with the underlaying OS and bend it whichever way I wanted to bend it. No MS OS has ever allowed for this and that alone made using the, any, MS OS a huge no-go for me.

Fast forward to today.

Through all of those machines and OS's I have been on a learning curve. Sometimes that curve has been steep, very very steep, and other times it has been easy. I am now the proud owner of several certificates which proclaim to the world I am fit and able to do all manner of IT related work.

I build all my own machines now as they work out cheaper that way plus one gets the ability to add-in whatever hardware one wants and often needs. Plus, I can tailor the hardware to ensure it works 100% with my choice of OS, which is GNU/Linux. Of course, today that tailoring of hardware is not really required anymore as GNU/Linux works with just about everything available, save for a few hardware pieces that tie themselves so close to the MS OS the coders and hackers cannot be bothered to create code that would make them work. If a hardware vendor is so short sighted they only make hardware that works on one OS then that hardware is not worth the time of day in my humble opinion anyway.

As a final note. If you enjoyed reading this and if you are located in Kingston upon Hull or at least somewhere close to it, and you are thinking of using a Linux OS within your company or as an individual at home, but the very thought of it is giving you nightmares, then feel free to contact me and if you want I will help you install a Linux based OS of your choosing. Perhaps you need someone to explain the finer points of the GNU/Linux OS versus MS OS, and there are many plus points for GNU/Linux over an MS OS, GNU/Linux is in 99.9% of cases cheaper to run and has no license fee mess to worry about, plus there is help everywhere on the Internet plus a few good GNU/Linux users locally who can offer guidance if you so need it. But the plus and minus things are best left for another blog post or possibly put somewhere on the Internet for all to see, read, inwardly digest and finally a decision made.

To my credit I have built from scratch upwards of 50 seat networks for various companies, that have at their heart a GNU/Linux based server. So, if you are such a person of company but are afraid of what GNU/Linux offers or perhaps the installation phase bothers you for some reason then feel free to contact me and we can perhaps have a chat about it. One thing you will find, be you an individual at home or the owner or manager of a small to medium company, GNU/Linux is not hard to install and with someone like myself at your elbow it will all become easy.

The savings that your company, be it a 2,4,16,32 or 64 seat one are not something your company can ignore or at least should not ignore.

As a side note and something that is, I am sure, always in your mind. I do not charge much, in point of fact I am confident you will find my services cheaper than most, if not all, of those who offer the same services, which is surely a plus for you. I charge nothing at all for email contact so what have you got to lose? Nothing, so go on. Contact me and let me show you the cost savings you can surely make.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Yesterday I got talking to an old old friend via MSN. Needless to say or indeed sad to say, but the guy was really into Microsoft operating Systems. I am sure you all know or realise I am a staunch Linux advocate. This dividing of the ways led to an interesting discussion which lasted just over 4 hours on and off.

He, as do most Microsoft using people, think that Microsoft innovated everything that comprises an Operating System. He even went so far as to say "Microsoft invented everything we use on the desktop and innovated everything we see on it". This rankled somewhat so I set about putting the record straight.

He was utterly disbelieving of the fact that through the years Microsoft has  actually innovated almost nothing, ever and has in fact assimilated companies who posed a threat to their near monopoly on the desktop as well as stolen code and called it their own, rehashed other peoples ideas and called it their own idea. The only things they have innovated on has been out of desperation of what others had done and even then because they innovated something that someone else had already done it is not true innovation.

The conversation was long, I will not be relaying it all here as a lot of it was just 'catch-up' chat. However, here are a few examples of the kind of things he believed that simply where not true or correct.

He was enamored with Internet Explorers tabbed browsing until I told him that we in the Linux community have had tabbed browsing for at least 2 years before Microsoft copied it. He was full of praise for some new Microsft terminal that has "scripting abilities" then I explained about the Bash shell and all the other console and terminals we in the Linux community have had for at least 10 years. Tabbed terminals? Same again, we have had them for years. The list went on and on and on and in every single case where he believed Microsoft has been first to market I corrected him and told him they where simply playing 'catch up' with what we in the Linux community have taken for granted for a long long time.

Microsoft does not innovate, they either buy out ideas and call them thier own or copy ideas already in use on other Operating Systems.

We ended the conversation with him promising to try a Linux distrubution but before he left he asked "Where do I get it from and if there is more then one which one should I use?". I answered with "Why bother? If you are happy with what you are using then stick with it". Then he said something I never expected. "Microsoft Vista is a bear and costs way too much for what it is, anyway, I was going to go back to Microsoft XP but now you have intrigued me with this thing you use called Linux so I want to take a look before reinstalling XP". So, I told him of Distrowatch and that if he is asking me for a recommendation for someone like him then I would have to say Ubuntu.

And that, as they say, was that. Off-line he went. I expect that either later today, it is almost 8:30am here in Blighty, he will come on line and then I can ask him if is using or even tried Ubuntu. I expect the answer to be yes, he had tried it but...And he will be using the same broken Operating System as he had always used.

Whatever will be will be.

Perhaps later or possibly tomorrow, I shall report on what he tells me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Server v desktop

i have used a Linux distribution since 1993 and it frankly scares me that distributions nowadays are blurring the line between a server and a desktop.

What do I mean by that statement?

Well, one should never, ever, put a GUI (Graphical User Interface) such as KDE or Gnome or even plain old Xorg on a server.

RedHat led the way in this area, now Ubuntu is following. Sure many others have done such a stupid thing along the away but that does not make it right. In fact, I think it is downright dangerous.

I have built and installed at many locations around the world servers and desktops and not once in all the years I have done it have I installed a GUI on a server.

If you or your server administrators have anything about them at all they will not, nah, they should not, need a GUI to get things done. If they do then they are sorely lacking the most basic skills a Linux Administrator should have and those skills are the ability to wake up a seemingly dead server from the commandline.

What if for whatever reason the X server or GUI woke bootup?

I will say it again. Putting Xorg and a GUI on a server it downright stupid at best and downright dangerous at worse.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What a crock.

Over the last weekend, and for 4 months previous for the design phase, I got to use a modern MAC with its modern Operating System (OS). I was offered a job setting up this network of computers and during a discussion with the man he requested Apple hardware and a MAC OS. Hmmm. Still, that is what he wanted and that is what he got. All told there were 23 computers including the server that held the Internet connection. Three other machines did the web serving, mail serving and a few other tasks. One further machine did file file serving that services the remaining machines that had a desktop role. Once in place everything gelled perfectly first time. Now those using those desktop machines will have to learn how to use them as their previous desktops were all a mix of MS Windows 98 and MS Windows XP. I am sure we all know how different from the user perspective these OS's are hence the learning curve their boss(es) have forced them into. The setup itself is not mission critical nor is this learning period going to have an affect on their business but I cannot help thinking they should have been given some time to learn this new OS before being thrust headlong into it. It seems unfair to do it this way but this way they decided to do it. On the Sunday I had a few of the desk workers in to show them the very basics of this new, to them, OS and I have to say they seemed on the face of things to manage very well. There were some who had issues with various parts but all told they seemed comfortable with it, That was the end of my job with this company apart from a contract that runs for 1 year that gives me unfettered access should something go wrong. Plus a login once a week to do some housekeeping. I highly doubt anything will go wrong, save for hardware failing, but as a safety net for the company this contract will suffice. You have to realise I deal almost exclusively in the Linux OS and while I am totally comfortable in dealing with any other OS available, either as a whole netowork or as a mixed enviroment, I much prefer a Linux OS for many reasons I am not going into today in this post. So, what is a crock? The MAC OS is that is what. I saw nothing innovative. I saw nothing special at all. Oh sure, all the machines gelled into one network with consummate ease but the actual OS itself compared to what a well configured Linux distribution offers or a well setup MS Windows box offers was nothing special at all. Sure is has 'ease of use' written all over it. It has some wonderful applications, the hardware is nice and the lack of viri and malware etc on that platform is a positive plus, but then none of those things are any different to a well configured Linux based OS nor in fact a well setup MS Windows OS (not including Vista as that has issues of its own). In fact I told the boss of this company how much he could of saved not only on the hardware but on the OS as well by choosing a Linux distribution instead and yet he still insisted on this well over-hyped setup. It was his call and he made it so I went ahead and designed the network layout on paper, well actually on a computer, then bought the hardware (being given money, a lot of money, prior to any actual work is a major plus to a small time network/system administrator/hardware guy like myself) and finally installed it all into a working environment. Only time will tell how his workers get along with this OS but I guessimate that within a year, during the lifetime of my contract with them, that they will change this crock of an OS to something else. And yes, I will say it again. What a crock MAC OS is for what one pays for it. Totally overhyped and totally expensive.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Whine whine whine.

It seems that there are some folks out on the Internet involved in some peripheral way with Slackware are not happy with Slackwares creator Patrick Volkerding. Apparently the guy is narked because P.V. has little perceived interest in the market value of his beloved project. Has anybody got any right to dictate to the maker of Slackware, or any other distribution, how he/she should run it or have any say in what each release is ready? I say not. This however has not stopped Jim from linuxpackges dissing P.V. I have no idea if P.V. cares for market value or not and frankly I don't care either. He puts time into creating what is in my opinion the best distribution there is to be had for new and experienced users alike. If he does it for his own amusement than distributes it that is his choice and everyone who uses it gets a huge plus. People these days either do not know or simply forget many of the larger distributions were created on the back of Slackware. I also have no idea if Jim from has some hidden beef or not but on the face of his post on his own web site it certainly smells of it. I think Jim is pissed because his linuxpackages web site is slowly but surely being seen for what it has always been and that is a poor web site full of dubious Slackware packages with no sources. His web site has been marginalized by many slackbuild sites who provide not only packages for Slackware but the build scripts which enable users to create their own packages. More and more users are seeing the benefits of doing their own packages and are increasingly leaving Jim's web site alone. There have been a few spats over the years between these two and always has Jim been in the wrong. I have dealt with Jim and a few others a few years ago when we all combined to set out some standards for Slackware build scripts. We broke up not long after forming because he wanted to enforce all sorts of none standard things which in our opinion broke away from P.V.'s methods. He was very insistent and some would say arrogant over his dealings during the whole affair. He is now showing the same "me me me" arrogance over this current affair. His attack on P.V. smells of what it is. Soar grapes.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Security hole in the making?

Everyone knows Apple uses BSD as its base and wraps all manner of inhouse (inbred?) applications around it to create the user experience known as OS X. Ubuntu and friends (Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu etc) are all based on debian and uses the 'sudo' application with gay abandon.

Many 'LiveCD`s' use a root account and a root account only. By passing the root versus user setup that Linux distributions and BSD distributions have used since forever. Linspire is another distribution, amongst many others, that uses root for everything. There are many examples of this blatant security breach everywhere.

This deliberate breaking of the dual root/user account setup has the ability to become a clear breach of security. Having a user account with limited ability to break things is one of the major reasons why Linux Distributions have a deserved record of lack of rootkits and spyware, malware etc etc. Sure there are rootkits available out there for Linux distributions but properly secured they are all but useless and this fact is where the run as root could open a whole can of worms.

'Sudo' has its place and used properly has all sorts of advantages but by creating a distribution that breaks away from the normal usage of 'sudo' takes away any advantages that it has when used properly.

Ignoring the advantages of the root versus user accounts by removing the need for a user account is in my opinion, one step closer to the abyss of darkness that is the MS Windows way of doing things with all the rootkits, viri, malware etc that brings with it.

Patent pledges.

Is it just me or are Microsoft digging themselves a hole so deep even they will never find a way out? They duped Novell into signing a patent pledge, which is now backfiring against Novell, and a few other lesser distributions have followed suit. Many, however, have not and amongst those who have not sits Red Hat. Red Hat wants dual indemnification but without the patent pledge (This pledge apparently is a dual 'we won't sue you' thing). Whether or not this plan is workable from both sides remains to be seen but so far Microsoft has said a firm 'no' to the idea. As an aside it is worth mentioning that the all new and shiny GPL Version 3 has a covenant within it that will stop these backhanded patent pledges so from Red Hat's point of view it makes perfect sense to seek doing it the way they want. Plus, they have shown Microsoft to be what others suspected them to be. A wolf in sheeps clothing. I will not claim to know the ins and outs of patent law but it does seem to me that Microsoft wants these patent pledges to deflect the view away from themselves. I also do not know how much, if any, GPL code sits within a Microsoft OS, be it NT, XP or Vista. It is almost a given that there is no Microsoft patents in a Linux distribution and that all this mutual indemnification pacts are nothing more than a smokescreen for what is really happening out there in the world of OS's/distributions. I am not the first to comment on this subject and no doubt will not be the last but nobody, that i have read online, is seeing this the way i have written about above. So, from that angle it is worth writing as if nothing else this blog was created to stimulate discussion.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More regulation for them.

Let me state upfront I have no beef at all with the residents of the U.S.A. What I do take issue up over is people who should know better offering the U.S.A. as te world when it clearly is not.

Mr Bill Stearns is an erstwhile guy who on the face of it seems to have the users security at heart. He often produces papers on that very subject but then he goes and spoils his work with comments about U.S.A. based national security.

I strongly believe the buck stops at the doors on the ISP'S. They can create a walled garden and force anyone with applications that do damage to others into it. Once there they can be offered on-line tools to aid in the cleanup of the users system. Once and only once, the users system is shown to be clean will they be let out and back into the big bad Internet. A pool could be created via all the worlds ISP's and one single huge walled garden created from those funds. If an ISP will not join this walled garden then perhaps we should be looking to not carry their data at all. Tough, perhaps but tough is where we need to go. Self regulation. Not U.S.A. regulation that affects no one but the U.S.A.

If the above is seen as unworkable then it shows a total lack of willingness and foresight on behalf of all the worlds ISP's.

Why do these people always think in terms of the U.S.A? It is NOT the world on its own. What affects the U.S.A. also can, and usually does, affect other countries but people like him in the field he works in constantly harp on about U.S.A. and its national security.

Why do they do that? They do it simply to gain traction to the points they make. By dropping in casual remarks about how the U.S.A. will suffer at the hands of nefarious people almost guarantees their remarks will be noticed.

As a none U.S.A, person i can assure you that the U.S.A. is not the end all and be all of security and as people harp on and on about U.S.A. this and U.S.A. that all they are doing is making the rest of the world hate the U.S.A. a little bit more with each such comment.

Sure, botnets suck big style. As does SPAM. But wait! Most of the SPAM in the Internet world comes out of....The U.S.A. Yes, that is right.

So while people go on and on and try to score points by mentioning National Security and the U.S.A. in the same sentence they  immediately alienate the rest of the world.

We, that is all none U.S.A. peoples of the world know they are an insular race but this sort of thing simply shows a lack of awareness and will quite simply alienate everyone else around the world.

Well done Sir. You have achieved your aims.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

There I was...

...sorting out yet another MS Windows machine that its owner had got clogged up with all manner of dodgy stuff. That one made 18 this week.

Viri, malware, spyware etc are all designed to slow PC's running MS Windows to a crawl. Not only that but they are designed to create a sometimes huge botnet which if you are tagged, your machine will become part of the attack.

As I was fixing yet another MS Windows machine infestation my thoughts turned to why is this situation so bad? I think I have the answer.

The people who create the tools to fight these infestations do not want to totally stop then from infecting your machine. No. They would have no way to extract money from you for thier products if they did that. The same goes for Microsoft and their lacklustre efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice as they have claimed to be doing for quite a while now. How many of they prosecuted? One, if my memory serves.

Not one of the so called Security outfits, and this includes Microsoft, are interested in stopping and much less interested in prosecuting the people that create Viri, malware and spyware simply because if they started on this road then the cash cow that is Security programs will run out of steam very very quickly.

So you, poor MS Windows user are left to fork out yet more money for the latest and greatest "secure" MS Windows and the latest and greatest security application and of course let us not forget the firwalls that everyone and his grandmother say you should have. More money spent there and along with all this you are left with machines that at best manage to boot and at worse crash and burn on booting.

They simply do not care.

Go Linux, you know it makes sense as we have none of these viri, malware and spyware things to content with.

Monday, May 28, 2007

When Ubuntu sucks.

It can suck bad...

Rather an open statement in that title. My meaning is basically that there are still areas of this Linux distribution that will give everyday users major headaches. Before someone tilts and attacks me for saying something sucks in Linux let me state clearly right now I have used and continue to use Slackware Linux and more recently BlueWhite64 Linux and I have never run an MS OS on my main workstation for more than a few days and even then because back then it took that long to download the install files, and never will. In fact, every machine on my local networks runs Linux and I am a vocal advocate in favour of it.

That said. One area where Linux in general can suck less is wireless. Sure once everything is working as it should then as usual it is rock solid but when it does not work it can be a struggle to get it working.

A case in point was my recent foray into installing Xubuntu (and for the record Kubuntu, Edubuntu and plain Ubuntu all exhibited the same symptoms) for my wife. For many reasons I understood she has struggled to get to grips with Slackware so after looking at many a-distribution we both settled on Ubuntu. She likes XFCE4 so for obvious reasons Xubuntu got the nod. This gave us too many other issues so we moved to permanently to Ubuntu.

While the install phase of all the various Ubuntu flavours is painless, getting her wireless working was not under any of them. But, at first, no matter what we tried her wireless refused point blank to initialise even though the OS itself said it was found and even though this particular card had worked, and was working, fine under Slackware. It is the usual chicken and egg thing. No internet connection because the device will not start but one needs the internet to either locate a newer driver or to seek help in getting it working. We are lucky here in that we have other machines for these purposes but many do not and are in point of fact single machine users.

In these modern times wireless is everywhere and in a large number of machines, laptops in particular, it is often the only connection available. So, when Ubuntu found the wireless but insisted it was a wired connection we had a fight on our hands.

After much messing about with /etc/network/interfaces we could not get Ubuntu to alter its perception that the wireless connection was a wired one and gave up on a known working PCI wireless card, inserted another one, which used the exact same driver, but again the not working persisted. After much editing of various files finally the wireless connection was coaxed into action.

Before we coaxed the wireless connection into action we added several files to /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist that were the root cause f it not working and others added to /etc/modules and to ensure the wireless card came up at boot we added the network details to /etc/network/interfaces. Once all that was done a quick run of /etc/init.d/dbus restart and /etc/init.d/networking restart finally kicked the wireless card into life with all the correct details for our wireless network.

All that above should not have been necessary and would most certainly trip up any new users to our beloved OS. It seemed to me that the reason the card refused to work was that the auto-detection process loaded the wrong driver files. Much hair tugging later these drivers were removed and added to the blacklist and the right driver to load added to /etc/modules.

Sometimes auto-detection can cause more hassle than it is worth and it is that that sucks not the distribution itself though I suppose because the OS uses auto-detection it can be said to the cause of the problem.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


So Microsoft have claimed Linux infringes on 235 of their patents but they will not say what they are due to paperwork.

What is all that about then? It is crap of course and stating paperwork as an excuse not to tell anyone what the patents are is even more crap.

The world plus dog knows how patent battles are done and they are not done by shouting "infringement" and then not saying what is infringed.

More FUD by Microsoft. That is all it is. FUD.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Which Distribution?

This is going to be a long blog post.

When I build a machine for someone, or get the job of setting up small to medium sized office I often get asked a few questions about the OS that they will have installed. Some outright request an MS Windows install and some more enlightened managers ask about Linux. Below I have complied a short Q&A.

1) Which Linux Distribution is right for me?

2) There are many hundreds of Linux Distributions and finding the right one for me without the need to install each and every one is a royal pain in the arse.

3) Is Linux like MS Windows?

4) I have been told that Linux costs more than MS Windows.

5) Won't I/we have problems if we use a Linux Distribution when other use something else?

6) What is the differences between the various Linux Distributions?

7) I have been told Linux is hard to use.

Some of those questions do not have a quick and easy answer but they can all be answered in a fashion that can be understood by everyone.

Answer 1) The right Distribution for you is the one you and whoever it is that will be using it feel comfortable with. Myself I would recommend one of the Ubuntu distributions. Of those I recommend Xubuntu or Kubuntu.

Answer 2) See answer 1. Of all the distributions available very few will actually fit the vast majority of users and potential users. X and Kubuntu are excellent at hardware detection. They are easily monitored from remote and are easy to update and add extra packages.

Answer 3) Yes and No. Yes in that an OS operates the same way at the very base level. They allow for copy files, they allow editing of files etc etc. No because if all OS's where the same what would be the point of all the various OS's out there?

Answer 4) Cost or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comes up all the time with offices with more than 4 computers and is a massive subject and I don't have the time nor space here to cover every facet of it. The truth is that you can get a Linux distribution for nothing but getting someone to maintain the whole network can be expensive. However, weighed together a Linux distribution is cheaper as the cost of the OS itself is nothing. However, there is a lot more to TCO than I cover here.

Answer 5) A Linux distribution comes with or can be added later, lots of applications that can handle 99% of all formats out there. Be they document formats, video formats or music formats. So, the short answer is a no you will not have interpolarity issues.

Answer 6) The main differences between all the various distribution are: package management (some have it, some do not). Some have a GUI to work in, others do not. In short the differences can be huge.

Answer 7) If you can use a muse and keyboard you can use a modern Linux distribution.

I have been short in my answers and have not gone in depth on any given subject so if you would like more information on a Linux distribution then feel free to email me at mr.jeepster at gmail dot com (replace at with @ and dot with .) the email address is obscured in an attempt to squash spammers. If you do email me then I will answer any questions you have and will if requested send an information pack which I compiled myself. I can also offer my services as a Remote Administrator and installer of Linux Networks.

I hope that some of the information given here was and is useful to you.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Oh dear what can the matter be.

Slackware has always been something for those of us who like stability over bleeding edge crash every few minutes type Linux distributions. Slackware has always been looked down on by those requiring a clue and never has this been more apparent when one sees rubbish such as this link below.

Slackware, and by extension Bluewhite64 and SlamD64, have included Gaim, now called pidgin, since for as long as I can rmember. Not once has Slackware or its included Gaim been broken, it has always worked with AIM, MSN, Yahoo etc etc. Where these guys get off on saying such rubbish about Slackware is  something only they know.

Slackware's lack of dependency tracking is one major reason for its stability. Just because these guys cannot setup Slackware does not by any stretch of the imagination mean the distribution itself is in any lacking. No, it is they who are lacking and by posting such rubbish for all to read they have admitted their own limitations.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How Far Has Wine Come ?

Sorry Jeep, your title was just waiting for another drop in *phrase* =) Warning: Wine in and of itself causes much debate, public drunkenness & heated discussions on the Internet and around newsgroups in general but it doesn't always have to be the case. There are emulators for many OS's OS's OS's ... I can understand both sides of the Wine Pros and Cons Long Living Debate and the affect ( negative or positive ) on the Linux World. That is not the point here. This is simply a POST concerning success running some apps on an emulator. period. It ( Wine ) has it's times of need and just plain ol fun when the most original looking and feeling software remake of your favorite game ( mine is good ol "Galaga" and "Asteroids" =) is windows only. Let's face it, Linux does not have three rows of software available at your local Computer Store. Check Jeeps post here which explains many angles on the Linux Desktop vs Windows that would also have an extreme affect as to why so much software is still only available for the Windows & Apple/Mac Platforms. I have been intending on posting this since the success I had running wine in the recent days. I am very impressed with the latest "wine" and would like to say a few words about it and keep in mind we can also post as comments to this post of course any apps we find that are running on wine IF and when we need to. Possibly to submit them to the wine database which is very handy for a quick look/see if a particular application you want to run is in the list or not and if so, possibly save you the heartache of a pointless effort OR a give you the information you need for a successful fast solution. I will start by saying in all honesty, I have tried wine in the past, lost faith and frankly, did not have the need to run any windows applications. Years ago, and when the project first started up I was always disappointed. Although many apps were and may have been supported at the time it always seemed that the one I wanted to run was either not supported at all or very limited. I gave them a thumbs up for trying so hard nonetheless. It has been probably 3 years since I have had a need or reason to run a windows application. Moving forward... I decided to give it another go earlier this year and was very pleased and surprised. I am happy to report that the all three different times I have had the need or want to run a windows application this year it has been a success. The original application can sometimes make life much easier. NEWS FLASH - All three apps I tried so far worked prefectly! *nod* to wine developers for "keeping on keeping on" as we say. 1) Wine & Wine-Tools installed perfectly on Slackware-11.0 ( plus updates ) 2) Each and every application worked almost perfectly. The only thing that did not work in two out of the three apps I have run succesfully on/under wine was window resizing. 3) Even this, amazingly, one the applications even went through it's "auto-upgrade!" This touches on another comment I need to post here The Windows Software I am running using Wine:
  • PokerStars Free (Play) Money Tables for me! - for this site
NOTES: This one was an executable installation and went through the familar windows "setup" installtion windows perfectly and set it up in my ~/.wine/ directory as needed by wine. No root was needed at all. Although I did install wine as root system wide. PokerStars even went through a normal "auto-update version upgrade" with no problem at all right before I made this post tonight. hmm .. Interesting =) I think I should post a comment here to this affect as it could be possibly an answer to one of many issues concerning the Linux Desktop for the average Home user which is simply installing commonly used apps in in your ~ ( home ) directory ( FOLDER for windows users ) like for one of may examples and auto-update is np. Windows re-sizing does not work.
  • Picasa for Windows
NOTES: Yes I also have Picasa for Linux which, by the way, is distributed with it's own wine server and depends on wine , not system wide but included, to run. I wanted to try both ways so I did and both work fine. NOTES: Window resizing does not work. It sees the Roland BR-600 through which Linux sees as a standard usb-storage device with no problem and no special hand config was needed for it to read and write to the device. Thanks to Roland for making the device spec to UMS also. Wine has come a long way. Whether you agree or disagree with wine's "affect" or what it may do to the Linux community is not the issue. That is a long and heavily debated topic. The point I want to make is that it is working for more and more applications and it works well. I may have the need for a few more apps running under wine who knows? =) Anyone know of a original "look & feel" Galaga for Linux or Windows to download? =) Later people.

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How far have we come?

How far have we come? What am I referring to? I am referring to Linux on the Desktop. How far have we come in this area in the last 4 or 5 years? I reckon the linux desktop has come on leaps and bounds, however, i do not thing the desktop experience is ready for rpime time. Intel and Redhat have teamed up to spread the word but when I first heard about that venture my first thought was "Oh no, here we go again." That venture is doomed to failure. I am sure both parties will put heart and soul into their efforts but I cannot help but think it is doomed to failure. Linux on the Desktop whilst being very very good compared to a few years ago may be ready for the masses but it is the engine that drives it all that is not. While we Linux users pride ourselves on how robust the basic OS is it is held back from mass consumption by the fact that there is no really good way to install updates and extra applications. As is often seen in the MS Windows world people do not want to be editing text files to configure something. people do not want to be putting in the root (administrator in the MS world) password every time they wish to install something or change some system setting. Until that mentality is removed Linux on the Desktop will never propagate. The various methods of various distributions are all well and good and should be heartily commended for their efforts in this area but there are many differing ways and until such a time as those differing ways all follow the same path this Linux on the Desktop thing will go nowhere fast. Redhat is not Linux. Redhat will not succeed in the desktop market. Who will? I haven't a clue but whoever comes out on top of the pile they have a long way to go before they are accepted and until they are accepted Linux on the Desktop for the mass market is doomed to failure.

Word of The Day - I am bored -> Pantheon

Pantheon of the Day Archive/pantheon

pantheon \PAN-thee-on; -uhn\, noun:

1. A temple dedicated to all the gods; especially (capitalized), the building so called at Rome.

2. The collective gods of a people; as, a goddess of the Greek pantheon.

3. A public building commemorating and dedicated to the famous dead of a nation.

4. A group of highly esteemed persons.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Geeks Like Music too =)

Discogs - Music Information Discography database

This site kicks ass. Best site I have ever seen as far as Discography database for all genres of music. Perfect for those mp3's or ogg's laying around that you want to complete the TAG info.


Welcome to Discogs

a community-built database of music information. Imagine a site with discographies of all labels, all artists, all cross-referenced. It's getting closer every day.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Get your own 128-bit number

00 2B 9C 5A A5 15 3B 72 F9 84 0F 46 A9 19 FA 65
I hereby own all the Intellectual Property in relation to the 128-bit integer number given above. And there is nothing you can do about it! See here and get your very own 128-bit integer that you can claim is your own Intellectual Property. First noticed on the inquirer (

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New kids on the block

There are many places on the Internet one can find build scripts for Slackware. many are good, some are poor. Take you pick and don't moan at other peoples work that you are taking. Be thankful abd give credit where credit is due.

Now here is what bugs me regarding these new slackware build script web sites. They have clearly taken other peoples work and replaced it with their own very slightly different way of building the packages. Some of these build scripts have been available on the Internet for years and yet these new web sites claim them to be their own. It would not harm these new sites to give a nod to the web sites where they got them from or indeed to give credit to the original author. But no. Not these new web site owners. Oh no.

Good practice it is not. Sadly, in todays world of give give give it is not surprising they go round doing this sort of thing.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Minor annoyance.

There is something that is growing in usage and is quite frankly a minor annoyance. Minor to those newish to a Linux distribution but a major annoyance to old timers. This phenomenon can be seen on various Usenet groups, many forums (fora?) and many other places around the Internet.

What is this annoyance?

The annoyance is when people call a distribution Linux 11 or Linux 8 etc etc.

There is no such distribution called Linux alone let alone one called Linux 11 or Linux any number! By using such a phrase you are showing you are the ultimate newbie!

When you ask a question, such as:

"I am using linux 12 and my wireless card does not work."

You are stating something, well two things, that make the question itself very very hard to 1) Understand and 2) to answer. Seeing as it was an answer you wanted it was pointless sending it phrased like that. So, before you post think a little before you hit send. 1) What is the actual distribution you are using? 2) what is the chipset ON the wireless card or perhaps the actual name of the card or usb dongle? Those two things determines the question can now be written as:

"I am using Slackware 11 and my D-Link DWL-G122 does not work"

And then go on to explain what you have already tried and maybe what links you have attempted to follow.

It really is not hard to understand that by saying Linux 8 you are not helping yourself nor those who may want to help you.

Please, stop saying it! It drives me and many others up the wall.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Life Insurance Journey - REGISTERing on sites that want all your personal information when not needed & RANT TOO !

Why is Life Insurance in the topic on THIS blog ? Read on my friends ... I did not originally intend on blogging this until I was in the middle of saving a personal note and it struck a nerve. This site ( Linked Below ) has Easy, online, instant approval and quotes without giving SSN, Credit Cards or bank accounts. At least you can get an "estimated" quote fast and easy without giving out that so important Personal Information that these thieves are using for ID theft. You know the drill, Phishing for Info and all that. At least some sites are easing up on the "registered user FIRST" to get any thing other than worthless Information concept. This is the next "advertising ploy" but it is just a tool that advertisers are using for sites to get more traffic, however, it is actually something useful. IE: Sites not asking for any Information than can be used for ID theft to get simple things such as a quote or details of services for the public to view. How smart you say. Well, the public "John Doe" has been waiting for sites to smarten up ( RANTING NOW =) and STOP the nonsense of having you give your first born to "REGISTER - SIGN UP" for simple viewing. That all started with the PHP-NUKE ( and other CMS applications ) era IMHO. So, there ya go. My opinion on what started as a simple personal link as I was checking on Life Insurance premiums out of curiosity that I may want to add to my additional. ramble ... ramble ... ramble ... Term Life Insurance from American Life Direct

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Added "Quotes of The Day" Section

Added "Quotes of The Day" Section for the heck of it.

Just glance to the right. =)

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Printing In Linux

NOTE TO MODERATORS We should think about organizing all printing posts, including this post into one "Post and all other printing posts are posted as comments or have a howto "Section" on the blog and merge any and all previous posts that concern printing. Using comments under one post is one solution. I am just trying to move towards organizing the blog a little better. This is my Google Notebook "Linux Printing" for public viewing. Linux Printing - Shared Public Google Notebook

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ESP Print Pro - Linux Printing - News

ESP Print Pro

Attention All Customers

ESP Print Pro will no longer be sold starting May 1st, 2007. Commercial support for ESP Print Pro will cease on January 1st, 2008. The CUPS Companion CD is the recommended replacement for ESP Print Pro. See the Transition Guide for more information.

ESP Print Pro - Easy Software Products

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FoxyTunes installed!

Welcome to FoxyTunes
FoxyTunes installed! This page will only be displayed once Connecting Web and Music * » See what's playing in your player * » Control your player from within the browser * » Find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and more with a click To get started - play some music in your player, click on the main FoxyTunes icon FoxyTunes main menu icon and choose your media player.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

YES ! Slackware 11.0 + CUPS + hplip + HP Deskjet D1420 = Successful Printing on Linux

All I can say for now is HELL YEAH ! I can print ! I bought a cheap printer 25-30 bucks at wal-mart ( my second - I took back a paperweight Lexmark ) and just finished setting it up. I will post all the details in this same post at a later date. For now I have to run. Details coming soon ...

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Welcome Jeepster ! Good to have you aboard man.

Hello all, A warm Welcome to one of my bestest friends! Jeepster is a new author & moderator for sevengeeks blog that you will see posting ( I hope ) soon. He is, well, a Geek. =) He is also one of the most knowledgeable persons I know as far as computers , networking, etc. You name it, he either knows it or he can find out. He is my mentor as far as bash scripting and many other geeky stuff goes. I learned a lot from hanging around this fellow. Let's give him a warm welcome. He will bring with him much knowledge and experience and will be my "partner in crime" as far as taking care of this blog. Soon enough we will get more and more visitors and more content. Good to see ya ol mate! =) Take a seat and get comfortable

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Linux Printing CUPS replacing ESP Print Pro

ESP Print Pro - Easy Software Products

ESP Print Pro will no longer be sold starting May 1st, 2007. Commercial support for ESP Print Pro will cease on January 1st, 2008. The CUPS Companion CD is the recommended replacement for ESP Print Pro. See the Transition Guide for more information.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DVD On Linux - DVD Software Players and Burning Utilities

Section & Topic: All things DVD on Linux

Please post any and all content concerning DVD & Linux in this section.

Ok let's get started.

As we all know, DVD+Any-OS can be troublesome at some stage in your endeavours depending on what you are trying to accomplish. We can gather some links and post our own tips & hints in this section for everyones convenience. I am going to put a link here that is probably the best Article for a "Starting Point" into the world of getting the most out of your DVD and related tasks on the Linux OS.

I found the article at ...

I am also going to publicly Share my GoogleNotebook: DVD and Linux on this topic.

So the floor is open. Comments are very much welcomed and appreciated.

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